SPOILER WARNING! This post contains some mild gameplay spoilers regarding the Death Mountain story arc in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The Kingdom of Hyrule, as presented in Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is a world coloured with hardship. Setting aside the dangers of hostile monsters, the natural world also lays out many challenges for the player through dramatic changes in weather, hazardous land formations, fast-moving swells of water, and harsh variations in climate. Extreme temperatures can only be survived through appropriate preparation, be it through food, potions, or clothing. Breath of the Wild is a game perfectly built to facilitate emergent, player-driven stories. This story is one of mine.

It is a story about not being prepared.

Link was losing health as a steady rate. Every second Link’s body would shudder as another heart was depleted, orange flames eating away at his tunic as he ran across the scorched earth. He didn’t know this area – it was unknowable. Harsh and cruel, the lava pits and noxious gases reminded Link that he was many miles away from the flat plains and cool, damp forests that he’d become accustomed to since awakening. In search of shelter and respite from the elements, Link paused for a moment to munch down a mushroom skewer. Not only would it heal him, but – if his culinary skills and knowledge of local fungi were good enough – it would also lower Link’s core body temperature and allow him to not burn. It worked. But it wasn’t enough. Link wasn’t prepared for this. How could he have been prepared for this?

As it turns out, there’s a difference between ‘heat resistance’ and ‘flame resistance’ in Breath of the Wild. It completely threw me off, but it makes perfect sense. After all, I myself have survived many Australian summers (almost 30 to be exact) but I wouldn’t expect to survive using the same techniques should I ever find myself on fire. It’s something that I didn’t know as I traversed Death Mountain and something I would kick myself for not realizing sooner when I discovered it after the fact.

When you’re running around the site of an active volcano, with flames and steam bursting from every heat-fractured rock, it doesn’t seem intuitive to take rest in a body of water. Not unless you want your final moments of life to be an agonizing transition into soup. But rather than becoming human stock, an accidental tumble into a shallow pool yielded a surprising result. These weren’t cauldrons of boiling water, but rather hot springs with healing properties. As Link took a soak to undo the damage his body had endured, he reflected on the chaotic marathon he had just endured. Just moments ago, he’d felt afraid and confused. Everything about this burning wasteland had been telling him he was not meant to be here, yet a blip on his radar was telling him he needed to go deeper. It was a chaos of mixed messages set to the sound of burning alive. It had all felt so wrong a moment ago, but now that he was safe Link had allowed himself a moment to consider that perhaps he’d been doing the right thing after all.

‘At least’ Link thought, ‘the worst is behind me now.’

The worst was not behind him.

Goron City had turned out not to be as sheltered from the elements and welcoming to outsiders as Link had initially hoped. But no matter, if the Goron were anything like the Zora, Link would be offered an item that grants outsiders some immunity from the local climate. Unfortunately, it seemed that there were some hoops to jump through first. The brawny Goron elder who greeted Link to the fiery settlement made a request of Link:

“Find Yunobo, who has the medicine to relieve my back pain.”

It’s a simple request. Trivial even – When you aren’t on fire.

There was no time to explore the city and talk to the locals, Link needed to focus on the task at hand before running out of food. Hearty meals and snacks were all he had to stave off death as the intense heat radiated through his body, so there was no time to explore.

If there had been, Link may have noticed the shop selling heat resistant armour in the city…

 Yunobo

To keep a bit of a running tally going at this point, for those not yet familiar with this quest in Breath of the Wild, missing the shop selling heat resistant armour in Goron City was actually the second major fuck up I made in this whole saga. What was the first, you ask? At the very foot of the mountain, well before the lava flows and suffocating heat became a consistent part of the landscape, I had missed a vendor who sells heat resistant potions. Potions that would have granted me safe passage to Goron City. Potions that would have gifted me time to explore with more leisure, allowing me to notice that a vendor was selling the heat resistant armour that would have made drastically reduced the suffering that lay ahead for Link. It was a simple mistake that quickly compounded and snowballed into several huge mistakes.

Yunobo was trapped in a cave behind a wall of rocks. To get to the cave, the still-burning Link would have to traverse a molten lake of lava. Catching the rising heat in his glider, Link was able to make it to the cave only to discover that his own bombs weren’t enough to break through the rubble that had imprisoned Yunobo. Using his telescope, he scanned the fiery hellscape surrounding him for clues. On the other side of the burning orange river he had just traversed, he noticed the elaborate mechanics of a canon. Link sighed, chewed through some baked apples, and made his way back towards the canon.

The reward for helping the Goron elder was three heat resistant potions. For those playing along at home, these are the same potions being sold at the bottom of the mountain that I hadn’t seen and, at this point of the game, I still didn’t know could be purchased elsewhere.

This was my next fuck up.

Each potion was a consumable – meaning it, like food, couldn’t be used indefinitely – and each potion granted heat resistance to Link for around 20 or 30 minutes. So whilst I was happy to have a means for surviving in this heat, I was still hesitant to explore Goron City in too much depth because I only had a finite amount of time in which I could be heat resistant. So I missed the armour, again. Instead, with the potion proving to be effective at protecting Link in Goron City, I decided to head straight to Death Mountain where my goal was to reach the divine beast – a giant mechanical creature that could be controlled once Link debugged it from the inside. Having just finished up with the divine beast at Zora’s Domain, I knew that once I was in the beast it would activate a warp point and I could leave the hostile area, replenish my supplies, and possibly seek out a new strategy for dealing with the heat.

It was a reasonably sound strategy. You can see all the logic there, right? Even if it wasn’t based on accurate information, this approach made sense. It was cautious even.

It was my biggest fuck up yet.

Alarm bells rang as Yunobo got spotted by the surveillance drones patrolling the side of Death Mountain. This caused the active volcano to erupt, spewing flaming boulders down the mountain at Link. Link – still on fire having just discovered the volcanic crater was just a little too hot for the effects of the potion – began stuffing the last of his food reserves in his mouth. He was determined to get to the divine beast, but he needed to escort Yunobo there in order to knock the beast down from high atop the peak. Link groaned as he just barely pulled through this wave of volcanic debris. This was the second time the timid Yunobo had tripped the alarm.

It wouldn’t be the last.

At this point you may be wondering, if everything has gone completely tits up, why didn’t I warp out of there? I had already been to Goron City, so I could always warp back here after resupplying and maybe even find that heat proof armour that I still didn’t know existed. Well as it turns out, once you start one of these pre-divine beast events with one of the local companions who assist you, your warp function is disabled. I didn’t realize this last time because the last event was fairly straightforward and I just did it then and there.

But this…

…this was a nightmare.

I had only a few items of food left. These were the only things keeping Link alive on Death Mountain, and he was going through them fast. Now, you may be aware that before meals are prepared Link must gather suitable ingredients. Potatoes, apples, fish, red meat, etc. Now it’s worth mentioning that these raw ingredients also restore health, but only by a very tiny amount. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

Link was convinced he was going to die here. He was stuck trying to guide an idiot up a mountain whilst burning alive. He was out of food, yet the flames continued to engulf him. Link began stuffing butterflies into his mouth a handful at a time just to stop himself from collapsing. He was sure he was done for.

I have been told by several close friends that this escort mission is tricky bullshit, even when you’ve done everything right and you aren’t on fire the whole way. But I will never know. Aside from the burning, guiding a non-player character around surveillance lights proves to be a tough challenge. And once you finally get Yunobo to each of the three different canon locations (that are used to attack the divine beast and knock it from the peak) you are ambushed by reasonably tough enemies that must each be killed in order to progress.

I WAS ON FIRE!
How did I even do this!?

I was already in a steady state of constantly dying, I didn’t have the supplies to cope with damaging blows from agile monsters. I had to fight with all of my cunning and skill. I had to be conservative and careful, but I also had to be quick because I was still on fire.

The rest is history. I somehow made it up the mountain and activated the warp point for the divine beast after several hours of confusion and despair. I had learnt strange things about Breath of the Wild that no human being ought to know. For example, did you know that if you talk to Yunobo whilst climbing the mountain the flames on your body will extinguish for a brief moment. This buys you a second or two before Link starts haemorrhaging his health again. It was also necessary to do this a few times whilst using Link’s magnet ability to move certain obstacles (yes, there were obstacles as well).

To this day, I’m not quite sure how I ended up persevering through all this. I’ve also found it hard to convey to people just how much of an ordeal this was and just how many things I had fucked up in the process. Until now, I’ve basically had to wait until people have finished this part of the game before I tell them each of the things I didn’t do when I finished it.

Who’d have thought a place called Death Mountain would be so dangerous, right?

One Response

  1. Fox

    Man, and here I thought /I/ was a dork for missing the dude in the mine who gives you a piece of the armour for free. In exchange for learning how to catch fireproof lizards, no less.